Quilotoa is a water-filled caldera and the westernmost volcano in the EcuadorianAndes. The 3 kilometres (2 mi) wide caldera was formed by the collapse of this dacitevolcano following a catastrophic VEI-6 eruption about 800 years ago, which produced pyroclastic flows and lahars that reached the Pacific Ocean, and spread an airborne deposit of volcanic ashthroughout the northern Andes.The caldera has since accumulated a 250 m (820 ft) deep crater lake, which has a greenish color as a result of dissolved minerals. Fumaroles are found on the lake floor and hot springs occur on the eastern flank of the volcano.
Quilotoa is a tourist site of growing popularity. The route to the "summit" (the small town of Quilotoa) is generally traveled by hired truck or bus from the town of Zumbahua 17 km to the South. Visitors must pay two US dollars each to look from the lip of the caldera. A number of simple hostales have developed in the immediate area, and offer services such as mules and guides for the five-hour hike around the caldera (whose diameter is about 9km), a half-hour hike down (and 1-2 hour hike back up the 400 meter vertical ascent), and very basic lodging down in its bowl. Camping is permitted at the bottom of the crater, but there is no potable water (except half-liter bottles sold at the hostel), and only a single pit toilet, located in the hostel.
South America makes up the southern half of the Americas and a large part of Latin America. It's home to the world's longest mountain range, biggest waterfall and largest river -- even these mammoths pale in comparison to the stunning variety of life forms thriving in the rainforest. To the northwest, off the coast of Ecuador, lie the Galapagos Islands, which are unique for hosting species not found anywhere else on earth. These were the subject of study for Charles Darwin in his theory of evolution, which he himself said will require proof in every single case. The main languages in South America are Spanish and Portugese, which basically tells you which European countries colonized the place. The South American wars of independence took place over two decades in the early 19th century, led by Simon Bolivar of Venezuela and Jose san Martin of Argentina. Following liberation from Portugal and Spain, South America took off into its own development, capitalizing on the rich deposits of oil, gold, copper, silver and tango musicians. Brazil is the largest country in South America and home to one of the world's best parties, Carnaval. Have you heard of samba music? How about bossa nova? Maybe dancing for three days straight? I can't say enough good things about South America. All the world's continents have amazing secrets and treasures laying in wait for your discovery, but in South America... just have a look at our pictures while you're waiting for online confirmation of your plane tickets to hit your inbox.Text by Steve Smith.